Top Dressing The Lawn

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Last Summer my backyard St. Augustine took a bad hit: Take-All patch I believe. I'm the one who cuts it using the old Snapper push mower with a sharp blade. I leave it long during the long, hot Summer to minimize watering and allow it to grow it's own shade. When I did cut it after a month or so, down near the ground it was brown. I noticed that this disease was forming one large circular area. Never seen this before on this now 25yr old grass. Several years ago I brought it back from "rough" and wrote it up. The steps I took then did indeed work. Disease wasn't an issue however. I used a granular fungicide recommended by an old-timer at a local feedstore that carries far more lawn/garden supplies than any box store. Further, much of what they carry you can't even buy at the box stores. This year I didn't shred/pile oak leaves into the compost bins as usual. I wanted to try something different. Instead, I sharpened the mulch blade, set the cutting height to about 2.5", increased the B&S engine speed, and mulched-in-place. This was quite effective as the large, tough oak leaves were reduced to finger nail size. Much smaller than with the bagging blade & grass bag attached (which fills up far too fast this time of year). Minimal raking to spread any large clumps out, some liquid fertilizer from a hose end sprayer to wet it all down and then left it until the rest of the leaves fell. I wanted to see how well this would work vs. filling the compost bins. It's much easier this way. Figured I'd either spread compost from 2 bins on top of the shredded leaves after they all fell or I'd top-dress with peat moss due to its acidity which makes life difficult for the fungus if it's still there. Over time this would break down the shredded leaves in place & save my back. Time will tell... Another 'acidic' top dress came to me: Spent coffee grounds. I contacted a local coffee shop and they were glad to give me all I could carry. The bags they use hold about 2.5#'s I guess. I carried off 18 to 21. Quite heavy as they were wet with coffee. Wondering how I was going to spread this wet, granular product I came upon the idea of clamping my electric leaf blower upside down in a B&D workstation, attaching the leaf vac tube, pointing it in the right direction and feeding handfuls of wet coffee grounds into it which shot out the blower end! Worked pretty good actually. I did have to clean out the impeller chamber a couple of times but no worries. When the last of the oak leaves + tasells covered the yard, I mulched again as before. Applied a few pounds of ammonium sulfate just before a rain. The grass was beginning to wake up and fill in again as we had very little "Winter" this year. Rather we had April in Feb., May in March, etc. Over the weekend, I spread out 9 more bags of the wet grounds, this time by hand in the mostly bare spots as more rain is forecast. While doing so, my mind began thinking about another way to spread light top dressings like peat moss: I needed a bigger blower. The thought occurred to rent an attic insulation blower! It has a section to grind/fluff up the compressed insulation bales (much like compressed peat bales), a large CFM blower and enough 6" dia hose to be useful to allow the machine to sit in one place. I got a big grin on my face at the thought. Can't think of any reason why it wouldn't work. Thoughts, suggestions?
 
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I get those rings here in Florida too. Could be fungus, could be grubs. I use a combination product for both fungus and grubs. For the coffee I suggest letting it dry out in the sun on news paper. They you can use your fertilizer spreader.
 
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I know nothing about southern turf management. If I lived down there, I would contact my local county extension agent and/or my land grant university turf department and educate myself: https://agrilifeextension.tamu.edu/blog/2015/08/04/new-aggie-turf-website/ http://aggie-horticulture.tamu.edu/archives/parsons/turf/publications/takeall.html Proper turf management relies on proper soil management. Do you have a soil test to KNOW what your pH and nutrient levels are to begin with?? Adding unknown amendments without knowing the possible effects could create more problems than you started out with. - A brief Google search on the use of coffee grounds comes up with articles similar to this Garden MYTHS site: http://www.gardenmyths.com/coffee-grounds-in-garden/ I'm not dissing coffee grounds, but you should know what they REALLY do (or don't do) and how to use them. - Without properly identifying your problem (i.e., disease) you might be heading down the wrong path. My quick Google search of takeall fungus suggests that moisture holding top dressings(on site leaf mulching) might encourage the disease. I've made plenty of errors mis-diagnosing pest symptoms, choosing the wrong strategy, and having to change battle plans. Yes, contact your state experts. Good turf depends on good turf species selection, good soil management, good irrigation practices, good mowing habits, IPM pest management techniques, and a bit of luck from mother nature. No advice on your amendment blower. Have fun!!!
 

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Dude...why bother typing all that out given your beginning sentence: "I know nothing about southern turf management"? Why even respond? All that wasted typing to end with "No advice on your amendment blower. Have fun!!!" WTH? Do you know anything about anything? Or just nothing? Obviously you didn't read my earlier post. In it you'll find I did get a soil test done at TAMU and successfully revitalized my grass. It all filled in. I even included pictures. Unlike you, I do know how to care for Texas Turf. Have been for over 30yrs now. Same grass even as it's never been replaced. Period. Even healthy people occasionally get sick. The link you posted has nothing to do with my issue. Further, I make no claims the author has shot down. Not only have you run headfirst into a parked bus, you're barking up the wrong tree, wading into a subject you know nothing about and revealing yourself as a total fool to fellow BITOG'ers. Me thinks you doth protesth too much. It's always better to think before you type. Why the emotional knee-jerk reaction? Given your condescendently arrogant tone, cluelessness about the subject at hand, and argumentative verbage, I take it this is personal with you as you've been hijacked by your own irrational emotions. Best not to dive in head first from the second story without checking the water's depth...much less when the tide rode out before you jumped. Obviously, this is routine behavior for you. A Sign Of The Times.....
 

sleddriver

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It is a fungus. Two neighbors have already replaced their grass and a third has multiple 8' diameter rings in the front yard! I spread out the first batch on the hot concrete pavement to sun-dry. It was slow going. Problem is spreading out a lot of it, thin enough to dry, this time of year. We'll see how it looks at the beginning of May.
 

Kestas

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Sleddriver, your post out of line. You asked for thoughts on your problem and you got it. Doitmyself is no stranger to horticulture. He has quite a bit of knowledge in this field to share with us. I see nothing in the tone of his post that is condescending. You overreacted.
 
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Sorry, sleddriver, if I came across as condescending to you. I did NOT see your other lawn thread. Admitting my inexperience with southern turfgrass, that I have made numerous errors myself with disease diagnosis and recommendations, and using "I" statements vs. "you" was my attempt at NOT coming across arrogant. If that came across as condescending, then I have learned from you that I need to improve my delivery skills. Thank you. I wrongly assumed that you should figure out your growth problems before venturing forth into the uncharted territory of mulching leaves in place. Regarding top dress amendment applicators, the industry has gravitated towards machines designed to topdress mulch and compost in even bands for numerous reasons: https://www.google.com/search?q=turf+mul...760&bih=845 The problem, for us, using air driven machines is that the material density is not very uniform, so a blower will fling the particles unevenly. Clumps in some areas and thin spots elsewhere leads to management problems on every front. Last fall we tried using a pneumatic spreader on a biochar research study. It was disastrous and we ended up modifying a turf sand spreader. For spreading mulch, which requires much less uniformity, pneumatic spreaders ARE used by the industry:
I think your challenges using an insulation blower will be to get your product as uniform as possible (size, density, moisture content) and to apply it in multiple passes crisscrossing the pattern at different angles. Let us know how it works. You may be on to something that the engineers missed.
 
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Here's a good example of uneven spreading:
More careful application technique could probably overcome this, maybe.
 

sleddriver

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Originally Posted By: Kestas
Sleddriver, your post out of line. You asked for thoughts on your problem and you got it. Doitmyself is no stranger to horticulture. He has quite a bit of knowledge in this field to share with us. I see nothing in the tone of his post that is condescending. You overreacted.
  • I don't agree. Given the tone of the reply, I replied the same. Turnabout is fair play. .
  • Actually what I asked for was about using an attic fiberglass blower to spread peat moss. Not advice on how to treat take-all patch, much less with such an attitude. Obviously you don't see this.... .
  • DIY is clueless regarding southern turf grass. He admitted as much himself. Re-read the reply. This isn't Mi. It's Tx. What part of that do you not understand? I would think this a MAJOR point when responding. Evidently neither of you do. As such, I can't explain.... .
  • If not, that's your problem, not mine. Must be a Mi. thing, eh? Obviously a friend of yours. Do you often come to his defense? Let him fight his own battles. .
  • I didn't over-react. I responded in kind. There is a difference. DIY should take caution in his tone on-line. Obviously it escapes him...and you. Must be a Mi. thing.... .
  • Moving on.......
 
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If you post a question, you will get all kinds of responses. Some helpful, some not helpful but benign and others that will get you thinking what the heck that was all about and why on earth would they post that nonsense. Comes with the territory.
 

sleddriver

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Originally Posted By: doitmyself
Sorry, sleddriver, if I came across as condescending to you. I did NOT see your other lawn thread. Admitting my inexperience with southern turfgrass, that I have made numerous errors myself with disease diagnosis and recommendations, and using "I" statements vs. "you" was my attempt at NOT coming across arrogant. If that came across as condescending, then I have learned from you that I need to improve my delivery skills. Thank you. I wrongly assumed that you should figure out your growth problems before venturing forth into the uncharted territory of mulching leaves in place. Regarding top dress amendment applicators, the industry has gravitated towards machines designed to topdress mulch and compost in even bands for numerous reasons: The problem, for us, using air driven machines is that the material density is not very uniform, so a blower will fling the particles unevenly. Clumps in some areas and thin spots elsewhere leads to management problems on every front. Last fall we tried using a pneumatic spreader on a biochar research study. It was disastrous and we ended up modifying a turf sand spreader. For spreading mulch, which requires much less uniformity, pneumatic spreaders ARE used by the industry: I think your challenges using an insulation blower will be to get your product as uniform as possible (size, density, moisture content) and to apply it in multiple passes crisscrossing the pattern at different angles. Let us know how it works. You may be on to something that the engineers missed.
  • Thank you for your frank admission & apology. Appreciated. .
  • My post from 2013: https://bobistheoilguy.com/forums/ubbthr...ss#Post3046541. Pictured is what I'm looking forward to getting back to. .
  • I've contacted the local Master Gardener/County Ag office numerous times over the years. No MG's were ever there when I called & my messages were never returned. I gave up and spent my time elsewhere. Much better information was found at TAMU. They actually patented a grass, Floritam. They're well aware of die-back, take-all-patch, St. Augustine decline, and others. .
  • I've made my own compost for nearly 30 yrs now. Built my own bins too as the itty/bitty consumer stuff I've found is just a joke. And way too expensive. Each of my three bins holds 60 cu. ft. I can easily top off all three if I compost both the Elm (fall) and Oak (Spring) leaves. Over the years I've learned how to build a pile well. They easily heat up to about 140°F and remain there at least two weeks. I have to regularly water to prevent them from drying out. Unfortunately, I'm the only one in my neighborhood who takes the time to do this. Not at all uncommon to see 20 - 30 bags of leaves piled up at the curb to be hauled off. As poor as the 'soil' is here and given the areas 'manic-organic' philosphy, in-action flies in the face. Though I don't subscribe to the MO philosphy, I do compost. To me, it just makes sense. .
  • Further commercial research has revealed I can hire a firm to come out and BLOW peat on my yard. After all, time is $$$ and that's how they do it. I've never seen this done myself. After my earlier success at 'revitalizing' my own grass with peat & fertilizer, a neighbor went and bought about 10 bales of it and did the same. Even had the Mrs. doing it. .
  • Here the 'recommended' top dress product is half compost/half sand. Several years ago I went to three soil yards to have a look at what they were selling. It wasn't screened very well: Lots of small twigs, even rocks. It was ~ $45/cu yard + delivery. That's nuts.... Peat is clean, no twigs, acidic, light weight, holds water well (it swells), minimizes fungus which is prevelent here due to warm/muggy/heat/humidity 85% of the year and stays in place. It's easily spread by hand (a large manure shovel is perfect) and prevents the bare top soil from drying out. When this happens, St. Augustine won't 'run' (put out runners into bare areas). My goal in 2013 was to 'woo' it into the bare areas. The photos prove it worked. .
  • One indeed must take care to insure an even coat. Just as in blowing in insulation. I regularly use an upside-down garden rake to push/pull material by hand. My compost isn't dry out-of-the-bins, but damp & heavy to spread. .
  • Currently the St. Augustine is making a comeback. Recently had a decent rain of ~ 3/4", I got fertilizer down, the coffee grounds (acid) and the old Snapper with a sharp mulch blade did an excellent job of shredding the tough oak leaves into pinky-sized-fingernail pieces. I'll keep an eye on it, ensure the bare areas don't dry out, only water during the day and only apply nitrogen. Don't need P or K. The soil test revealed their levels are off the chart. N however was very, very low. .
  • For now, I don't need to add peat. I have about 90 cu ft. of my own compost at my disposal to use. I still think that using an insulation blower will work fine for a homeowner who wants to spread PM on their own, without paying a service. Baled peat, fiberglass & cellulose are quite similar density-wise. The machine can easily be blown out with a leaf blower both before & after use. .
  • This is the first time I've ever had this take-all/St. Augustine decline. It spreads fast. Really decimated my grass I worked hard several years ago to revive. Frustrating to say the least. However, it's already looking better. The rain has helped. Lawn fertilizer isn't recommended here until mid-May usually. I think that's way too late myself, especially with a wet Feb/March/April and barely any Winter. .
  • I did spend a few hrs reading that guys site you linked. I agree with much of what he says. Not all, but much. Very different climate here though. No "poor man's fertilizer", no deep, long Winter, frozen ground, etc. He's right about NPK ratios, not wasting $$$ on 'miracle' soil enhancers, and really stirred the hornets nest in many comments sections for the MO die-hard true-believers. Been there. Done that. Very, very expensive, time-consuming and brutal in the Southern heat & humidity.
 

sleddriver

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Originally Posted By: doitmyself
Here's a good example of uneven spreading: More careful application technique could probably overcome this, maybe.
Yep..that things a beast. Check out the size of that truck. Huge blower. That's also a park looks like. An rental attic insulation machine pales in comparison. Not even close.
 

sleddriver

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Given the odd shape of the yard, I split it into a rectangle and a right triangle. The former measures 31' x 38'-8" and the later 18'-4" on the short side & 44' on the hypoteneuse. The area of the rectangle is 1200 sqr. ft and the triangle, 354 sqr. ft. Thus the total area equals 1,554 sqr. ft. To lay down a pound of nitrogen per 1000 sqr. ft, using ammonium sulfate (21-0-0), I'll need (1554 sqr. ft/1000) x 4.76# = 7.4# of it. Ammonium sulfate at a local feed store is $16.23/50# (w/tax) or 32¢/lb. Thus 7.4# costs $2.37. To lay down 1-1/2 #'s per 1000 sqr. ft. will require 11#'s and cost $3.53 w/tax. In contrast, say I use Scotts southern turf-builder (32-0-10)instead. HD charges $42.74/42.5#'s or $1/lb. STB's multiplier is 3.13 therefore using it at the lower dose will require 4.9# and cost $4.90. An increase of 107%. This is why I shop at the feed store instead of a box store! At the higher rate, it'll take 7.3# and cost $7.30. Suppose I choose Milorganite (5-4-0)instead. A readily available composted municipal sewage sludge product. Out the door, It'll cost $14.05 for a 36# bag or 39¢/#. At the rate of 1#/1000 sqr. ft, will require 31# for a cost of $12. An increase of 411% over the ammonium sulfate! Finally, let's crunch the organic-option numbers for Garden-Ville's lawn fertilizer (7-2-2). A 40# bag will cost $25.21 or 63¢/#. At the same 1#/1000 SF rate, it will require 22.2# and cost $14. Over A.S. the increase in cost is 491%. Finally Part-Deaux, LadyBug all purpose 8-2-4. A 25# bag costs $35.67. From their own site: "As a lawn, tree, or shrub fertilizer, All-Purpose Fertilizer should be applied two to three times a year at the rate of 6 lbs. per 1,000 square feet." Wow.... A 25# bag will cost $35.67 or $1.47/#. For comparison purposes, let's start with the same rates as above, then progress to the recommended application rate/yr. At 1# nitrogen/1000 sqr. ft. it will require 19.4# at a cost of $28.52. This is 138% over the cost of the same amount of nitrogen using Milorganite and 104% over the cost of Garden-Ville's product. In comparison with A.S. we're at an increase of 1,103%! Let's follow LB's recommended application rate of 6#/1000 sqr. ft. to my yard. So I'll use 9.3#. But just how much nitrogen is that? Oddly enough, it's about half (9.3/19.4 = 0.47 or 47%). So instead of laying down 1# nitrogen/1000 sqr. ft., I'd only be laying down .47# or 7.8oz of nitrogen. That's not much. This has been very educational, both as an engineer & a home-owner. It also explains why my previous experiment showed such great results. This also explains why some remark that they saw no effect from applying fertilizer. Odds are they didn't use enough. Not near enough. It's not just how much fertilizer you apply. It's how much nitrogen you apply! If you don't apply enough, the grass won't grow and turn deep green. I've concluded to get my grass a good Spring boost and apply enough nitrogen to aid in breaking down all of the oak leaves I shredded-in-place, my next application will be 2# nitrogen/1000 sqr. ft. Using A.S., this will require 14.8#. Then six weeks later, I'll make another application at the lower rate of 1# N/1000 sqr. ft (7.4#). One 50# bag will last me quite awhile. That's my plan and I'm sticking to it.....
 

sleddriver

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Lo & behold, there is such a simple thing as a peat moss spreader: Given this, I was clearly over-thinking the task. Turns out HD rental does rent these at some locations, but not here. I checked yesterday. You can buy one for ~ $150. Nothing to maintain, sharpen or rent! Also would be great for spreading compost. Definitely assures even spreading; works just like a drop fertilizer spreader! Heck, it's even possible to DIY with hardware 'cloth', a couple of round disks and a pole! Especially when I only have to deal with 1,556 sqr. ft. My neighbor with > 10,000 sqr. ft. of grass to deal with might want to have it blown....
 

sleddriver

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Update: The bare spots are slowly giving way to new St. Augustine runners. The grass is a deep, emerald green and growing well. The brown you see in the photos is due to mulched oak leaves + a light application of peat moss. No bare ground is showing. I've been watering these specific spots to prevent them from drying out. Just receive about 1-1/2" of rain, which was really needed. I'll fertilize again at the beginning of June.
 
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